Why does your skin lose pigment?
When it comes to the mysteries of the human body, there are some questions that just seem impossible to answer. Like, why do we yawn? Or, how does a camel store water in its humps? But perhaps one of the most vexing questions is: why does our skin lose pigment?
A Brief Primer on Skin Pigment
Before we dive into this juicy topic like a celebrity gossip magazine at a nail salon, let’s take a moment to talk about what exactly we mean by “skin pigment”. Basically, when you look at someone’s skin (in non-creepy contexts only please), you’re seeing different amounts of melanin.
Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes and it serves as sort of an internal sunscreen. The more melanin someone has in their skin, the darker their complexion will be. This is why people from places with lots of sun exposure tend to have darker skin – their bodies naturally produce more melanin as protection against harmful UV rays.
Pretty straightforward so far, right? But here’s where things get weird…
So Why Does Your Skin Lose Pigment Anyway?
There are actually quite a few reasons why someone might experience loss of pigmentation. Here are some possibilities:
In some cases, loss of pigmentation can be traced back to genetics. For example, if both parents carry one copy each of a certain gene mutation (known as OCA1 or OCA2), then their child may inherit two copies and develop albinism. Albinism causes lack of pigmentation not just in the skin but also hair and eyes.
Genetics are tricky little buggers sometimes, so it may not always be clear which specific genes are responsible for causing changes in pigmentation.
Autoimmune disorders occur when your body mistakenly attacks healthy tissue thinking they’re foreign substances or attackers, causing inflammation and damage to that tissue. Some autoimmune disorders can also affect melanocytes, such as vitiligo.
Vitiligo is a condition that causes patches of skin to lose their pigment due to the death or dysfunction of melanocytes (there goes our internal sunscreen!) . The exact cause of vitiligo isn’t clear yet, but researchers think it might be related to genetic factors or an autoimmune disorder.
For most people, loss of pigmentation begins in middle age or older. With age, there’s natural wear and tear on the body – including your skin (cue all you anti-ageing cream enthusiasts) . As we get older, certain cells like melanocytes may simply start replicating less efficiently than they used to.
As mentioned earlier UV radiation from sun exposure stimulates production of melanin but excessive exposure can result in damage resulting in increased risk for developing skin cancer as well as making us look old before our time.
This damaged caused by UV radiation triggers formation free radicals which deplete antioxidants in responsible for repairing DNA so it’s important protect your skin using sunscreens with broad spectrum SPF (30+) when going outside avoid prolonged direct sunlight especially between 10am-4pm
Exposure to chemical compounds like those found pesticides; [aromatic hydrocarbons] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aromatic_hydrocarbon) from industries; chemicals used leather tanning among others have been shown change cell behavior affecting how fast they replicate leading abnormal growths on the surface layer skin removed over time leaving patchy patterns across affects areas
So what now?
At this point, you might be feeling a little bummed out about all the different ways your precious pigments could disappear into thin air. But don’t worry! There are things you can do:
- See a doctor: If too much pigment discolouration, you should see a doctor to determine the exact cause and possible treatment options. Some conditions such as vitiligo have no definitive cure but treatments are offered for those with cosmetic concerns.
-Protection from outside damage: As mentioned earlier sunscreens are important in protecting us against developing skin cancer,creating good habits like staying out of direct sunlight or using protective clothing can also help reducing unnecessary exposure also avoid exposing your skin chemicals harmful to it
- Treatments:Treatment may range according to severity;Psoralen photochemotherapy – involves taking photosensitizing medications (psoralens) and exposure to UVA light following which most patients regain pigment than Vitiligo Excimer laser therapy / Dermabrasion aimed stimulating regrowth.
With these measures hopefully you will be able maintain your precious pigmentation keeping you healthy while looking great!